03/16/2012 2:10PM

Turfway: Big field likely for Vinery Racing Spiral

Benoit & Associates
Handsome Mike (right), second to Stoney Fleece in the Generous, is expected to ship in from California for next weekend's Vinery Racing Spiral.

Racing officials at Turfway Park are expecting a sizable field for their annual showcase event, the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes, with a handful of prominent trainers likely to run a pair of 3-year-olds apiece.

Todd Pletcher, Graham Motion, Mike Maker, and Mark Casse all have two horses under consideration for the Grade 3, $500,000 Spiral, which will be run next Saturday, March 24, at the Florence, Ky., track.

Those probable starters include Heavy Breathing and Holiday Promise for Pletcher; State of Play and Went the Day Well for Motion; Tizanexpense and Mr. Prankster for Maker; and Stealcase and Bluedacious for Casse.

Turfway stakes coordinator Tia Murphy said several others are likely, including Handsome Mike, a Doug O’Neill-trained colt who most recently was third as the favorite in the Feb. 18 El Camino Real at Golden Gate Fields. Other probables include Coach Royal and Ill Conceived, while a few more are possible, with weather conditions this weekend for the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park being a factor. As many as 12 can start.

As things stand now, Heavy Breathing might be the favorite, considering the way he has looked in easily winning both career starts on the main track at Gulfstream Park. Owned by the Starlight Racing partnership that lost one of the Derby favorites, Algorithms, to injury late last month, Heavy Breathing won a Feb. 8 maiden race by 7 3/4 lengths at first asking, then came back to win a 1 1/8-mile allowance on March 3 by 4 1/4 lengths.

Pletcher is a two-time winner of the Spiral with Balto Star (2001) and Flower Alley (2005). Likewise, Maker has won the race twice, with With a City (2006) and Dean’s Kitten (2010), while Motion also has two Spiral trophies, with Adriano (2008) and Animal Kingdom (2011).

The Spiral, run at 1 1/8 miles over Polytrack, is one of four stakes, all for 3-year-olds, to be run on the Saturday program. The others are the $100,000 Bourbonette, the $75,000 Rushaway, and the $50,000 Hansel.

The 41st running of the Spiral will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) as the first of six major prep races on its “The Road to the Derby” series.

Last year, Animal Kingdom won the Spiral in his final prep before capturing the Kentucky Derby in his next start. He became the second horse to pull that double, following Lil E. Tee in 1992.

Turfway will not be hosting its annual draw luncheon on the Thursday before the race; the draw will be held instead in the racing office. A Chamber of Commerce and charity reception is scheduled for Thursday night at the track.